The Kyle Rittenhouse verdict

compassion, kindness

verdictI’m trying to contextualize the disappointing but unsurprising Kyle Rittenhouse verdict.

One part is Mark Evanier’s tweet. “And one day soon, someone of a different political view and/or race will do what Kyle Rittenhouse did and all the folks cheering today’s verdict will be screaming, ‘Rule of law!'”

There is a 2021 article in Slate that I found intriguing. “Black gun rights advocate Kenn Blanchard says Black Americans shouldn’t be scared of the Second Amendment.”

And of course, many African-Americans are afraid. Race DOES permeate the politics of gun control. Think of the death of Philando Castile, who announced to an officer at a traffic stop that he had a gun in his car. He ended up dead, and that continues to gut me.

I’m left to speculate what would have been the reaction by law enforcement to a young black male running through the streets of Kenosha, WI with an AR-15. Perhaps he would have ended up dead like Emantic “EJ” Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. He was a good black man with a gun trying to end an Alabama mall shooting.

But Kyle Rittenhouse, running through the chaotic streets with an automatic weapon, goes past law enforcement without incident. As a Boston Globe columnist noted: “You can be a vigilante when your mission is to serve the system.”

STFU

Much has been made of the judge’s rulings during the trial. For the most part, I concur. Yet there is one aspect that I have to agree with him. The fact that Rittenhouse had not made public comment before the trial should not have mattered. Moreover, when the prosecution suggested that this was an issue, and the judge reprimanded the state on Fifth Amendment grounds, it hurt the case. It was prosecutorial ineptness.

In this blog back in 2014, I wrote: “If I am ever in a situation that would involve the criminal justice system – whether as the victim and/or witness or defendant – I will not comment on what I might testify about until the trial is over. I won’t talk about it, and I certainly won’t blog about it.”

Very few things irritate me more while watching the news than having  Lester Holt, or whomever, saying, “X is breaking their silence.” It’s as though talking about testimony to the press before the trial is what one is SUPPOSED to do. I do not buy it.

As a practical matter, shutting up is probably better. Alec Baldwin spoke after the shooting death of the cinematographer for the movie Rust. When he talked about how well-run the set operated, he may have made himself vulnerable to civil liability.

polar bear

With God on his side

It fascinates me that the two folks on my Facebook feed who clearly supported the outcome put it in a Christian context. My old neighbor Greg says the verdict was “Absolutely beautiful totally innocent! 100% self-defense.” He bashed the “bleeding hearts”, and ends with “so good for Kyle excellent praise God.”

As someone who has been reading a lot of the Old Testament recently, there’s a lot of stories of the people of Israel preparing to invade other folks. Start with Joshua 1, for instance.

But this is not the Christian theology I believe in. I’m more of a Colossians 3:12 kind of guy. “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” That would mean, in my mind, not becoming a Stand Your Ground provocateur.

Being a good black person with a gun

the perception of arms and race

art of the shot
Photo courtesy of the Department of Defense
Annoyingly frequently, a story will catch my attention in the “while black” section of the news. In this case, “sleeping while black.”

A black woman was shot and killed after Kentucky police entered her home as she slept, her family says. “Louisville Metro Police Department officers were looking for a suspect at the wrong home when they shot and killed Breonna Taylor, according to a lawsuit.” Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who had a licensed firearm, fired his gun when he thought someone was breaking in. He was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder on a police officer.

People have asked me if I would feel safer being a good black person with a gun. Hell, no.

Back in 2018, a black man killed by police in Alabama mall was shot from behind. “Emantic ‘EJ’ Fitzgerald Bradford Jr., 21, was shot when police officers responding to reports of gunfire at the mall mistook him for the gunman. According to witnesses, Bradford was helping other shoppers to safety.”

That same year, there was an interesting article in The New York Times. ‘I Am the “Good Guy With a Gun’: Black Gun Owners Reject Stereotypes, Demand Respect. “After recent incidents in which police officers shot black men who tried to stop a shooting, African-American gun owners told us how they navigate being wrongly perceived as a threat.”

In the second half of 2018 alone, at least three black men in the United States had been shot by police in separate incidents while trying, according to witnesses, to stop an active shooting. Jordan Klepper, in his short-lived series, produced a piece, Open Carrying While White vs. Open Carrying While Black.

Philando Castile, RIP

I’m still pained, and slackjawed by the death of Philando Castile in 2017, a black man with a legally-owned gun, who announces in a traffic stop that he has a weapon in the vehicle and ends up dead.

This story is interesting: Racism and the black hole of gun control in the US. “Would tighter gun laws help protect African Americans or make them more vulnerable to racism and police brutality? Charles E Cobb Jr notes of the civil rights movement that “if not for the threat of gunfire, many more peaceful protests – and possibly the movement itself – would have been silenced by violence.”

Still, the perception of arms and race are quite different. And historical. Check out The Racist Origins of US Gun Control Laws Designed To Disarm Slaves, Freedmen, And African-Americans by Steve Ekwall.

In 2016, Agent Orange encouraged supporters to “watch” polls on election day. And similar noise is being made this year. Yet the tiny New Black Panther Party doing it in previous years was seen as terrorism, not Second Amendment freedom. What’s the difference here? It’s as simple as black and white.

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Keith Lamont Scott of Charlotte, NC

Some gun person asked me, “Wouldn’t you feel safer having a gun?”

keithlamontscottYou’ve likely heard about the shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man, at the hands of the police, specifically a black police officer. There were demonstrations that started out peacefully but turned violent for a couple of days.

Putting aside, for the moment, the grief over the untimely death of the individual, I was immediately concerned about the well-being of my “baby” sister and her adult daughter who live in Charlotte, North Carolina. Somehow it’s different when you see a massive demonstration at the corner of Trade and Tryon, and you say, “I know exactly where THAT is.”
The family, BTW, is fine. My sister and my late parents moved down there in 1974, and it was a struggle to adjust, but they seemed to have made the transition, not without some race-based difficulty.

Charlotte is the home of several banks, and there is great wealth there, but also systemic injustice. The reaction to the Scott shooting was larger than just his death, but about similar incidents in the recent past in the Queen City.

I thought Robert Reich made a good point:

Assume, for the sake of argument, that the account given by the Charlotte police of how they came to fatally shoot… Scott on [September 20] is true – that he had a handgun. Okay. So what? North Carolina is an open-carry state (like 30 other states) where a citizen has the right to walk around with a handgun.

The Charlotte police department says its officers saw Scott “inside a vehicle in the apartment complex. The subject exited the vehicle armed with a handgun. Officers observed the subject get back into the vehicle at which time they began to approach the subject.”

So exactly what illegal activity did the Charlotte police observe before they approached “the subject?” The only conclusion it’s possible to draw is that it’s illegal to carry a handgun in North Carolina if you’re African-American.

Eugene Robinson made much the same point, which is that In America, gun rights are for whites only. Some gun person asked me, “Wouldn’t you feel safer having a gun?” I said, “Hell, no!” And that was before in incidents in North Carolina and Minnesota.

The Weekly Sift went further, suggesting that there is The Asterisk* in the Bill of Rights when it comes to both the Second Amendment (right to carry arms) and Fourth Amendment (against unreasonable searches and seizures) for blacks.

A United Nations working group says U.S. police killings are reminiscent of lynching. Yow. Read about what eighteen academic studies, legal rulings, and media investigations shed light on the issue roiling America, police, and racial bias.

Strategically and philosophically, I oppose rioting. But when one’s level of outrage hits a certain threshold – remember Keith Lamont Scott, because this happens so frequently, sometimes I can’t keep track – I surely understand it.

(I didn’t even mention the death of Terrance Crutcher of Tulsa, OK at the hands of white police officer Betty Jo Shelby because the shooting appeared unjustifiable even to Donald Trump.)

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